New life rule: if you’re running a business and you wake up feeling tired, overwhelmed and not that excited to put on some pants and take whatever comes next in your stride, just take the day off.
The other Monday morning I just couldn’t get my head out of the clouds. I woke up feeling drained, lethargic and the opposite of the girl on the Herbal Essences commercial. I made it to work with sleep still embedded in my eyes. By 9am and I’d already downed 3 cups of chai (my equivalent of 6 macchiatos). I floated around the studio for a while staring aimlessly at our plants, then sat down and half-heartedly scrolled through my inbox. I opened and closed Instagram about 20 times. After wasting the morning not really doing anything, I proceeded to then waste my afternoon, still not achieving anything at all. To be honest, it was probably my least productive day in the 5 and half years of running this business. What I should have done, was stay at home, put my PJs in the dryer for 10 mins and then hop into the warm goodness of flannel, devouring my entire pantry shelf by shelf.
The key here was admitting to myself that I was, simply, exhausted and that the solution to this issue isn’t always forcing myself to get up and ‘werk, werk, werk, werk, werk’. Love ya Bad Girl RiRi, but sometimes I just… can’t.
Outrageous, huh? To not take the day off because I’m bed-ridden with bird-flu, doubled over with chronic cramps from the depths of hell, or even to hold up a ‘Welcome Home’ placard at arrivals for my very best gal pal. Rather, just taking the day because I need a day of rest and rejuvenation is sometimes just the ticket. But try telling me that, right?
Us hard-working, ceiling-smashing, stalwart overachievers strive to be the best at everything. But would our worlds fall apart if we gave ourselves a break?
When you run a business, the demands on your time, life and sanity increase exponentially with no respect for regular office hours, lunch breaks or god-forbid — holidays. I know I often feel like everybody in the whole entire world needs something from me and that I might be glued to my inbox from now until approximately a quarter past forever. I fear I could still be trawling through emails when my hair is grey and my skeleton is still hunched at my desk beside a pile of dusty post-it notes.
There’s no denying that the dream does not take kindly to short cuts — it’s all blood, sweat, and yes, a lot of the time, tears. But let me remind you, you are not a machine. You are not a slave. You did not take the plunge into your business purely to be a work horse, tied to your desk 24/7, chowing down on sloppy lunches and cold cups of tea while your dream is established before your eyes, but they’re far too bleary and red to properly see it. The guilt trips, the condemning, the feeling as though stopping for breath is cheating — all sure-fire signs that you need to take a break. Deadlines don’t own you. Your business doesn’t own you. Not even Doughnut Time owns you. You’re in charge, which can sometimes feel like the very worst news (but it shouldn’t!).
It’s no surprise that so many business owners are stressed to their eyeballs and feeling burnt out on a regular basis. It’s not just the number of hours we’re working, but also the fact that we’re carrying our workloads with us everywhere we go – yes, even to old mate’s breakfast BBQ and little Jimmy’s parent teacher night. Entrepreneurs are often celebrated for wearing multiple hats and logging huge workday hours. But working without letup is a bad habit that can jeopardise business, health and the lifestyle you’re supposedly working toward.
Let’s face it, we aren’t working to work even more; we’re working so we can better the quality of our lifestyles and reap the rewards of building a career that gives us flexibility away from our work.
My solution? Just take the day off every now and then. Do something you love, revive yourself and sit back at your desk tomorrow feeling refreshed and productive. Don’t wait until you hear Edward Munch scream inside your head and your ability to self motivate has been entirely shattered. And definitely don’t wait until you’re bedridden with the flu, chicken pox, or aggressive herpes. We’ve all become victims of a work culture that dictates that unless we are physically sick we shouldn’t take a day off – unless it’s the weekend of course. But I believe that taking time off when you are in a sweet state of health will encourage inspiration, invigoration and plenty of fresh energy. Beats spending the day hooking up with a tissue and popping cold and flus like they’re gobstoppers.
But remember, when you do take the day off, you mustn’t do anything work related. Do all those things you would love to do but never get around to because of work, things like reading, writing, cooking, sunbaking topless on a magnificent beach in Santorini, single-handedly working your way through every Yogurberry flavour on the menu…
A mental health day should be designed to give your mind, body, and spirit just what it’s craving most, which will be different for every person, trust me!
Creativity is a fairly delicate thing. Exercise the muscle too much and it seizes. Exercise it too little and it atrophies. A day of doing nothing will soothe the soul, and most likely, create some space for the creativity to come oozing back through. When your brain is constantly in go-go-go mode, it stops looking for creative solutions and starts looking for the quickest solution. Having the headspace to think about what you want isn’t indulgent — it’s imperative. Sometimes the things that make the most business sense, aren’t about business at all. They’re about what fills you up and gets you excited. Like deep-down, butterflies in the belly excited.
With thanks to the other Monday and my newfound awareness, I’ve taken a week off and for the second time round, am reading ‘Zag’ by Marty Neumeier. What an incredible man! He can come round for a cuppa any time. Meanwhile, I’m singing along to Al Green, because he is also phenomenal (and equally encouraged to drop round for a cuppa any time).
I’m sitting here realising that no one lives forever. Even as a business owner, you need to live in the moment, embrace your inner spirit and every now and then just take the damn day off. In the wise and poignant words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it”. And what a tragedy that would be!